Seven steps to gourmet heaven

Infinity Haydon Kirby

Foodies will be delighted to know that AG restaurant has launched a delicious new winter tasting menu

Charlie Bond was among the first to experience it in the luxurious surroundings of Alexander House

When your Friday evening involves dinner plans in a sophisticated three-AA rosette restaurant you know it’s going to be special.

Upon arrival at the luxury Alexander House Hotel, my guest and I are led through to the 1608 Champagne Bar. Taking up residence in front of the roaring fire, we’re served two glasses of Jacquart Mosaique rosé (£14.50) and greeted by restaurant manager Michael, who hands us menus and the wine list on an iPad – how very 2016.

He explains that tonight we’ll be dining from the AG winter tasting menu, which consists of seven courses paired with seven wines.

While I’m certainly hungry enough to eat seven courses, I’m not sure how my head will feel after seven glasses of wine, but I’m certainly willing to give it a go.

While we marvel at our options for the evening, we’re brought a selection of canapés, which include anchovy straws, vegetable crisps and olives.

We’re then ushered into the newly refurbished AG’s restaurant to begin our culinary journey. The chic grey colour palette studded with shots of teal and impressive glass feature panel make this intimate space both homely and sophisticated, with diners of all ages enjoying the restaurant’s relaxed ambience.

To begin, our waiter pours a glass of Jacquart Reims Blanc de Blanc champagne. It’s dry, zesty and perfectly accompanies the chef’s amuse-bouche of rhubarb purée with fennel foam and toasted pearl barley.

We’ve also been presented with a basket of soda bread with a choice of butters including sea salt and seaweed, and a truffle and mushroom variety. Both are equally flavoursome although I find the former appeals to my palette more – it almost tastes like sea air.

Our starter is more indulgent: Foie Gras topped with chocolate zest and served with blood orange and toasted brioche. This is paired with a Sauternes – a sweet wine with honeyed aromas. The brioche and chocolate is perfectly offset by the sharpness of the orange, and the flavours and textures are brilliantly complementary.

Next up is smoked scallops set atop pickled kohlrabi with pastrami. It’s stylishly presented under a glass cloche from which swirls of smoke unfurl as it is lifted. Then our waiter brings individual jugs of beef tea to pour over it, and a Comte de Provence rosé that is lusciously fruity and light.

The smoky scallop and pastrami paired with the saltiness of the beef tea makes for a taste sensation – so I’m disappointed when my plate is empty.

A palette cleanser of foam green tea, lime and cucumber follows. This leaves us suitably refreshed and ready for the next course: Line caught cod with leek, leek ash and truffle. The cod is light and moist, but the addition of the leek ash brings a dry, charcoal flavour. To complement this, we are served an Australian chardonnay that has citrus notes and a crisp acidity.

The following dish is presented so beautifully that I’m almost reluctant to eat it. An explosion of colour appears before us in the guise of venison loin with red cabbage, salsify and a Moroccan spiced pastilla parcel, adorned with blackberries and vibrant red and purple embellishments. The Dolcetto Lagrein Australian red with its notes of blackberry partners it sublimely.

At this stage, we’re almost full, but there’s still the small matter of dessert.

“Would you like a small break?” our waiter asks, eyeing our empty plates. While this is probably a sensible suggestion, we have now been eating for almost two hours, and the fear is that once we stop, we won’t be able to start again. So, we politely decline and await the first of our dessert options.

The dark chocolate mousse, served with chilli and mango, is accompanied by a cooling lime sorbet. The wine served is a Château Laulerie, Côtes de Montravel Sémillon. It’s light in colour, clean-tasting and refreshing.

Not quite ready to admit defeat, we move on to the autumn squash cheesecake with mandarin, accompanied by a thyme ice cream. The Austrian Eiswein Hopler dessert wine served is decadent, sweet and the ideal accompaniment for the creaminess of the dessert.

With such a variety of dishes and so many delightful flavours, it’s hard to choose a favourite, but after much deliberation, my guest and I conclude that the venison ever so slightly eclipses the others.

From start to finish, the evening has been resplendent. As we bid farewell and head into the night, I already know that tomorrow’s dinner with its single course won’t be nearly as astounding…

Charlie Bond had AG’s winter tasting menu with wines, which costs £125 per person

Alexander House Hotel & Utopia Spa
Turners Hill
East Grinstead
West Sussex
RH10 4QD
01342 714 914

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